Photo: Gadsden State President Dr. Kathy Murphy announces the reinstatement of the college’s baseball and softball programs during a community meeting on Monday, April 18 at beck Field House. Pictured, from left: GSCC Baseball and Softball Reinstatement Committee members Kyle Reeves, Mike Robertson, Craig Ford, Courtney Brothers, Steve Hildebrant and Hugh Stump. (Courtesy of Gadsden State)
Courtesy of Gadsden State
There are no longer any “buts” about it. Gadsden State is bringing back a pair of longtime athletic programs.
During a community meeting at Beck Field House last Monday (April 18), Gadsden State President Dr. Kathy Murphy announced that the college will field baseball and softball teams
beginning in the fall of 2023 with a competitive schedule in the spring of 2024.
“I sometimes give a speech that’s called ‘Don’t let your but get in the way.’ ‘I can do it, but,’ or ‘I can try it, but’ or ‘I can take a chance, but.’ Well, we’re not going to let out ‘buts’ keep us from stepping forward and doing what is in the best interests of our students and our community.”
The meeting was attended by graduates, former student-athletes, community leaders, Gadsden State employees, alumni and students.
“We believe this is a good way to recruit, enroll, retain and support students,” said Murphy. “We are providing them a good collegiate experience.”
The Gadsden State baseball and softball teams were disbanded in 2011 and 2016, respectively.
Murphy said the decision to reinstate the programs came after a January 20 community meeting held to gage public interest. A committee of local supporters, including former Gadsden State student-athletes, was convened to discuss and research the possibility of the reinstatements.
“We’ve decided that we are tired of being spectators,” said Murphy. “We want to participate. Life is not a spectator sport. You are all here because you don’t want to be a spectator in life. You are ready to participate.”
The softball team will utilize one of the fields constructed by the City of Gadsden in the Gadsden Sports Park located behind the college’s Wallace Drive campus. The baseball team will play on the field at the Gadsden Sports Complex located on Meighan Boulevard. The field is being vacated by the Gadsden City High School baseball team, which will move to a new stadium currently under construction on the GCHS campus.
The Gadsden State baseball and softball program had a storied history. The Cardinals were Alabama Community College Conference state champions in 1981 and 1985 and ACCC runner-up in 1982 and 1987. The Lady Cardinals won the state championship in 1988 and 1989 and were state runners-up in 1986, 1990, 1993, 1998 and 1999. The 1989 team finished third at the NJCAA Tournament.
Gadsden City Council member Dr. Cynthia Toles, who represents District 1, said that her fellow council members and Mayor Sherman Guyton are excited about the addition of baseball and softball at the city’s hometown community college.
“It’s a great day in the neighborhood,” she said. “We support sports. If we don’t have sports, we don’t have a school. We truly support Gadsden State, and we will do everything we can to bring more visibility to our college. We value our partnership.”
Baseball and softball are not the only recent additions to the school, as Murphy announced the reinstatement of cross country in September. The sport was eliminated following the fall 2011 season.
“Not everyone will agree with us on investing in sports but that’s okay; they can be wrong,” said Murphy. “We need our community to come forward and support our athletic department. We need to see your faces when the bats are cracking. We need your presence.”
With the addition of men’s and women’s cross country and baseball and softball, Gadsden State now has eight athletic programs. The college currently has men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball and men’s tennis.
Freshman volleyball player Sidney Peterson was pleased that more student-athletes will benefit from being a Gadsden State student-athlete.
“At Gadsden State, I’ve learned from supportive and knowledgeable instructors, grew under the leadership of strong female coaches and developed friendships with some of the best athletes in our region,” she said.
Peterson added that in addition to a positive collegiate experience, more area student-athletes will be able to expand their athletic careers beyond high school.
“As student-athletes at Gadsden State, we are given the opportunity to adjust to a less-intimidating environment while perfecting our athletic skills and earning a solid education,” she said. “We are becoming better athletes and better students thanks to our time at Gadsden State.”
Kyle Reeves, an Etowah High School graduate who played on the 1998 and 1999 GSCC baseball teams, serves on the Baseball/Softball Reinstatement Committee.
“I enjoyed being involved on the committee and I’m excited that baseball and softball are coming back to Gadsden State,” he said. “We have a president who values athletics and who values what athletics can do for the community.”
Mandy Martin, who played softball at Gadsden State from 2005 to 2007, wants other GSCC student-athletes to have the same positive experience that she had.
“Playing ball at Gadsden State meant the world to me,” she said. “The experiences I had here created memories that will last a lifetime. We weren’t just part of a team at Gadsden State; we were part of a family.”
Former state representative Craig Ford noted that re-instating baseball and softball has been a passion of his since the two sports were cancelled.
“I want to thank Dr. Murphy for appointing me to the committee to bring back baseball and softball. It was an honor to serve, and this will help in the recruitment of other students to the school. This is the type of community effort we need between the college and the City of Gadsden.”
Murphy added the college will soon hire an athletic director who will also serve as a coach. The head coaches for softball and baseball will spend the 2022-23 academic year purchasing equipment and recruiting players and assistant coaches. Murphy said that although the coaches will decide what equipment is needed for their respective team, she realizes that there will be a substantial upstart investment. Besides equipment, Gadsden State must fund the salaries of coaches, scholarships for players, paying umpires, traveling to games and insurance.
“This is a big undertaking financially, and we’ll easily spend $200,000 to $250,000 dollars just trying to get ourselves going,” she said. “It’s quite expensive, but, like Babe Ruth said, ‘Never let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game.’ We’re stepping forward to do what we think is best for our students and for our community. We’ve come to a fork in the road, and we’re going to take it.”
The Cardinal Foundation is currently accepting financial donations to be used for expenses incurred by the reinstatement of baseball and softball. The Cardinal Foundation is an organization established to raise, manage, distribute and steward private resources to support the mission of Gadsden State. It is governed by a board of directors led by president Mark Condra. For more information, contact Gadsden State Public Relations and Marketing Director Jackie Brehm Edmondson at 256-549-8224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Messenger Publisher/Editor Chris McCarthy contributed to this article.